DENVER, Colo. — When an employee of Draper, Utah-based Legal Life Plans Inc. discovered evidence of possible securities fraud within his employer’s ranks, he warned supervisors that the company was making false representations to its potential clients. But instead of correcting the alleged fraud, Legal Life Plans fired the whistleblower, according to federal prosecutors.
The employee filed a wrongful termination complaint with the Department of Labor alleging his employer fired him in retaliation for speaking out against the wrongdoing. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigated the complaint and found that reporting the results of the securities fraud investigation and voicing his concerns were indeed factors in the employee’s dismissal – a violation of the whistleblower provisions spelled out in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
In August, OSHA ordered Legal Life Plans to pay the former employee nearly $120,000 in back wages, interest, and attorney fees. The agency also ordered the company to clean the employee’s personnel record of derogatory references or remarks and any disciplinary actions taken against him in relation to him exercising his rights under Sarbanes-Oxley, which prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who report securities violations.
“Firing a worker for reporting securities fraud is illegal,” said Gregory Baxter, regional OSHA administrator in Denver. “Employees must be free to exercise their rights under the law without fear of losing their jobs or facing retaliation in the workplace.”
OSHA is charged with enforcing the whistleblower provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and 21 other whistleblower statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, maritime and railway safety laws.